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War in Ukraine: How Cherson influences the course of the war

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Status: 07/27/2022 04:46

The Battle of Cherson is a decisive battle for Ukraine: the region is supposed to be back under government control by September. But Russia also has plans for the fall there.

By Jasper Steinlein, tagesschau.de

The local military administration recently announced that the southern Ukrainian town of Cherson and its surroundings could be liberated from Russian occupation by September. Their adviser Serhiy Chlan even sees it as a “turning point on the battlefield”: the Ukrainian armed forces have gone from defensive to counter-offensive.

British and American military observers confirm: In the area around the Dnipro estuary, 30 kilometers from the Black Sea, Ukrainian troops are increasingly threatening Russian invaders. President Volodymyr Zelenskyj announced that the army was moving in the region “in stages”, rocket fire on important bridges over the Dnipro cut off the supply of Russian heavy military equipment, on the outskirts of Cherson , more than 1000 Russian soldiers would be surrounded.

At the end of July, a Ukrainian projectile hit the Antonivsky Bridge near Kherson. Since then, the bridge has only been passable cautiously for civilian vehicles.

Image: AFP

In the city, which had nearly 300,000 inhabitants before the war, everything is now heading towards one of the decisive battles for the rest of the war: Russia is likely to do everything to maintain the conquered land connection of Donbass to the Crimea and from there to others launch offensives towards the west. On the other hand, if Ukraine succeeds in retaking its territory, it can push the Russian troops back behind the Dnipro and halt their progress inland, at least for a time.

Both also want to symbolically demonstrate their superiority in Cherson: Ukraine is trying to keep its promise there never to cede its territories and to reward the towns that will remain loyal to it – and to prove that arms deliveries from the West will help him with more than long delaying battles. Russia, on the other hand, wants to show that it is capable of carrying out its threats of annexation – an opportunity to implement Putin’s historic revisionism, which is the ideological foundation of the war of aggression.

Rubles, passport issuance, propaganda

Nearly five months of Russian occupation have already changed the city of Cherson: Mayor Ihor Kolychayev has been deposed and arrested, former KGB agent Alexander Kobez and a former fish-food manufacturer named Kirill Stremousov, who was previously appeared as a blogger on corona conspiracy legends, are now in charge and are on the EU sanctions list. In interviews with Russian media, he said that the citizens of Kherson already feel “like subjects of the Russian Federation”.

The ruble is used as a means of payment, companies are confiscated and forced to “re-register”, during which the management must accept Russian citizenship. Residents of Cherson are also being asked to apply for Russian passports as part of an urgent procedure – the distribution of food would have been dependent on this in some cases. Reports of arbitrary arrests, violence against civilians and hundreds of missing persons are mounting. For the Victory Day celebration on May 9, flags of the USSR were reportedly raised and groups of Crimean pensioners were brought into the city, wondering “Where is the camera?”

Resistance is expressed only in small gestures: when the Russian flag disappears and the Ukrainian is hoisted in its place, or when Russian food is boycotted, as one resident of the city put it in early June. ARD Studio Moscow reported. Apart from the propaganda images, almost nothing new has come out of the city since then.

Courageous civil resistance

The people of Cherson, in particular, impressed many with their courage to resist: in early March, when Russia had conquered the Crimean city in just a week, large groups of people took to the streets, fixed flags Ukrainians on Russian tanks and shouted loudly: “Kherson belongs to Ukraine!” and “Putin is a sausage!” After days of protests, Russian soldiers fired into the crowd, one person reportedly dead.

Selenskyj called Kherson a “heroic city” – along with Mariupol, Kharkiv and three other theaters of war. A little later, the Russian National Guard and the FSB secret service moved there. Since the spring, Russia has been transporting grain and sunflower seeds from the region to its own country on a large scale. But in addition to the spoils of war and the strategically favorable location between Crimea and Dnipro, Cherson has a third important meaning for Putin: here he wants to make an example of his great power fantasies derived from times past.

The “Wild Field” of 1778

During the first half of September, the Collaborative Government installed by Russia recently announced that a “referendum” on joining the Russian Federation was to be held in Cherson and near Zaporizhia – the formation of commissions elections responsible for establishing “electoral lists” has already begun. Katerina Gubaeva, a member of Russia’s Collaborative Government for Kherson Oblast, wrote: “The referendum is our chance to get out of the ‘wild field’.”

In the Middle Ages, the steppe landscapes of southern and eastern Ukraine were called “wild fields”, in which horsemen and nomadic peoples such as the Zaporozhian Cossacks lived – in Russian history they are portrayed as uncivilized “savages” who have been tamed by Russia. The Kherson region was then inhabited by the Crimean Tatars. Tsarina Catherine the Great conquered the region, subdued the Cossacks and founded the city of Cherson in 1778.

Now, two and a half centuries later, history is repeating itself, Goubaeva continues: Russia is “building a civilization” on territory that in 1991 – the year of Ukraine’s independence – was deliberately stripped of its historical memory, its industry and its future. The referendum is there to “give the people back their territory”.

Who can create facts first?

If this reversal of historical facts succeeds, Russia could also draw on military forces. “If southern areas are annexed, Russian armed forces will continue to advance towards Odessa. Ukraine’s survivability would then be extremely compromised,” said Sabine Fischer of the Eastern Europe research group and Eurasia of the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politique in tagesschau.de-Interview.

Because with Odessa, Ukraine would lose its last access to the Black Sea – and therefore to its military and commercial fleet. “You have to remember again and again that ultimately Russia’s overriding war objective is the destruction of the independent Ukrainian state,” Fischer stresses. “And the further Russia advances towards Odessa, the greater this danger becomes.”

A fierce struggle has begun for Russia and Ukraine as to who can be the first to create facts with Kherson by the fall.

Source www.tagesschau.de

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